Hello again! We are back from Book Expo and our feet are blistered and beat up, but our book bags are full! We gleaned a lot of Book Goodness for Adult Summer Reading prizes and for ourselves. The kickoff is June 19th so make sure you join in. Also as it promises to be a rainy, not-so-wonderful weekend, why not curl up with a wonderful book? This week we have some flappers, meth, meth, meth, PARIS! hair straightening, some heat, The Queen, a castle, Poland and some unexpected beauty.
Let us begin!
Intern Chantalle is wading in some book goodness. “I am currently knee deep in Libba Bray’s The Diviners. Set in the height of the flapper era, this fast-paced read takes a mysterious turn as a slew of fanatic murders starts cropping up all over Manhattan. Our main character Evie, staying with her uncle who is the director of the Museum of the Occult, becomes involved in more ways than she ever wanted! And it’s linked to Solomon’s Comet! Just what are the Diviners? How can they stop this murderer before it’s too late?”
Steph is also knee deep in something but I don’t think that it is necessarily good. “Surprise! Dr. Feelgood: The Shocking Story of the Doctor Who May Have Changed History by Treating and Drugging JFK, Marilyn, Elvis, and Other Prominent Figures is chockablock with conspiracy theories. I know, with a title like that, who woulda thought it. Anyway, the point of this book is that everybody was doing meth like crazy, thanks to the nutty Dr. Max Jacobson and his ‘vitamin shots.’ Marilyn, JFK, Jackie, Gore Vidal, Eddie Fisher, Cecil B. DeMille, Ingrid Bergman, Spiro Agnew: meth meth meth. Jacobson and his practice are the focus of the story, whenever the story actually has a focus. I wish I could recommend it. I hate saying unkind things about books, but this is just terribly written and the structure makes no sense. It’s a shame because if half of what’s in here is true—and believe it or not, I think it is—there’s a great book waiting to be written about meth and twentieth-century history. I will wait for it patiently, and methlessly.” I for one am surprised that a book with this much meth would have any structure at all.
Sweet Ann has just finished Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell. “This novel takes place over a three day period in the summer of 1976 when London was actually suffering through a heat wave. Ms. O'Farrell makes you feel the heat, not only in the temperature but in the angst of the Riordan Family. Gretta has been married to Robert for forty years. They have three children: Michael Francis who is having marital problems, Monica whose step children are making her life quite unhappy and Aoife,(yes you will discover how to pronounce this Gallic name if you read this book), who is now living in New York away from the anger of her sister Monica and her mother's disappointment. Robert disappears, taking money from the bank and Gretta calls her children home in the hopes of finding her husband and their father. This is a family filled with many secrets, hurts and misunderstandings. Ms. O'Farrell takes us back in time when the children were younger and you start to understand the difficulties they have faced. This is quite a good story and I recommend it if you are looking for a family drama with a family that will keep you intrigued and engaged.”
You may have noticed that there has been a certain quiet over the past few weeks. Barbara M. was gone and traveling around her beloved France. She is back now. Not happy about it, but she is back with this offering. “I've just embarked on another epic journey, Paris by Edward Rutherfurd. I’m finding the dialogue stilted and the historical research too apparent but because of the subject I will continue reading it with the hope that it improves.” Welcome back Barbara. You may not be happy, but we are happy you are back.
Just to keep us guessing Jeanne is only working on one thing this week. “I am reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian author who won the Orange Prize for her brilliant Half of a Yellow Sun in 2007. I first began reading this author after I saw her in a webcast during a diversity panel. Adichie is passionate, compelling and beautiful; just like her books. Americanah is a bit sprawling, with 500 pages, but it's a huge story that she has to tell. This is a boldly written novel about a young Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who has come to the United States to continue her studies. She begins a blog based on her experience of being an African in America. She posts on her relationships with a white American boyfriend and then a black American boyfriend, body size, hair straightening, the complexities of pan-Africanism and Barack Obama. Over the years she thinks of Obinze, her boyfriend in Nigeria, who was not as successful as she in obtaining his green card, but who keeps her in his heart, too.”
Abby is having a royal ponder. “I've just started Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, a novel by William Kuhn and it has made me chuckle aloud a few times. Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas Queen, Defender of the Faith, and so on - is feeling a bit down. Being Queen, she can't quite follow the same course as non-royals in seeking help for her blues, so she decides to make her own fun. A spontaneous solo adventure outside the gates of the palace may be just the thing to cheer up Her Majesty. Once her household staff realizes The Queen has gone walkabout, they must figure out where she is off to, and how to discreetly bring her back inside the palace walls without alarming the public. No one could ever accuse the real Elizabeth the Second of shirking her royal duties, but this book does have me thinking about the burden of living such a public and structured life built upon duty on such a grand scale.”
Pat S. is reading Embers by Sandor Marai. “Marianne unearthed this jewel for me and I am truly in her debt. Originally written in 1942 in Hungarian, Embers has only recently been translated and made available in English. Taking place in the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Embers opens in a castle at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. There, an aging aristocratic General waits to dine with his best friend Konrad whom he has not seen in 41 years. Over the course of dinner in one long evening, the two shall relive a chain of events involving the Generals' beloved and long dead wife-which culminated in the end of a marriage and the end of the relationship between these most trusted friends. Essentially, this is an exposition on friendship, honor, betrayal, revenge and remorse-and the ultimate weight of any of these emotions at the end of the day. This is beautifully and touchingly written, and like all masterpieces, timeless.”
Pat T. is checking out something new. “I have just finished reading the debut novel The Lullaby of Polish Girls by Dagmara Dominczyk and found it to be a good coming of age story, as well as a story of friendship among three young girls, Anna, Kamila and Justyna. The novel is set in the present time and flashes back to their childhood and young adulthood and each character tells her story in alternating chapters. Anna immigrated to the United States from Poland with her parents as a child and returns each summer to visit her ‘Babcia’ and renew her friendship with Kamila and Justyna. As young adults, the three friends struggle with decisions they have made, how their lives are unfolding and discover their friendship sustains them through it all.” Dagmara will be coming to speak on July 25th. Mark the calendar!
For those keeping track, The Jen List of Wonderful for the Year is as follows, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, Colum McCann’s Transatlantic and now we have a new entry: A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett. Lindhout escaped her brutal childhood by escaping into the pages of National Geographic. She promised herself that she would see the world depicted in the glossy pages and she kept her promise. By waitressing and bartending she was able to travel to exotic locales and in the process she found her life’s calling as a journalist. All this comes to a crashing halt, however, when she travels to Mogadishu, Somalia where she is kidnapped on her fourth day there. Corbett’s writing is exquisite and it brings a beauty to Lindhout’s story which is far from beautiful. I am wild for this book which comes out in September.